Chelsea Clinton Shares 20-Year Data on Women’s Progress, Problems

Putting a number on gender inequality issues can bring attention to the scale of such matters.

During Internet Week New York, Chelsea Clinton presented data and findings from a report by the No Ceilings project, which gave a snapshot of progress made in support of women around the world. The report also identified key problems that need to be addressed.

No Ceilings, a collaboration of the Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, used a data-driven approach to assess how women of all ages have fared since 1995.

That year was when the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, and Hillary Clinton made a statement equating women’s rights with human rights. Twenty years later, the data shows there is still a lot of room for improvement despite some progress, Chelsea Clinton said. She is vice chair of the Clinton Foundation.

“A couple of things struck me,” she said. “I didn’t know the United States was one of few countries that doesn’t have paid time off for mothers of new infants. We’re in the company of countries that are largely small island, nation-states.”

The data on education and labor for women around the world was also disconcerting. “In 1995, 55 percent of women 16 and older were either in school full-time or working. In 2014, it was still 55 percent,” Clinton said. That suggests little has changed in terms of the proportion of women getting job training or entering the workforce.

Joining Clinton on stage was Ben Fry, principal at Boston-based Fathom Information Design, whose team built the website for No Ceilings. Turning information gathered from around the world into something the public could relate to was a big data challenge. “What we’re looking at is 850,000 data points, almost 1,000 communicators across 190 countries,” Fry said. “It’s a phenomenal amount of data.”

Transforming numbers on spreadsheets into visual representations such as heat maps can help make the data more clear, he said.

The study looked at such things as the transition from secondary education to employment, and the percentage of women attaining executive positions. “This is where visualization helps us; you can tell a much more nuanced story as you go through each of those data points,” said Fry.

Data from the report is presented on an interactive map, he said, making it possible to quickly see such trends as the persistence of legalized child marriages and how that can also impact the education of girls.

Clinton said the objective of offering up such information is to get more policymakers and people around the world to take action. “We hope that by sharing the data and stories we will help inspire other organizations in other countries,” she said.

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